Five PR lessons from the death of Osama bin Laden

Five PR lessons from the death of Osama bin Laden

As with any major political event, the death of the world’s most wanted man marked a PR operation of unimaginable scale.

Far from being a vanity project, the way that such incidents are communicated to the rest of the world has greater bearing than almost any other PR campaign. Inter-governmental and interfaith relations are just a few of the things at stake.

Here’s what we learned:

1. Less can be more more

Footage of Saddam Hussein in the gallows surrounded by rowdy onlookers was hardly an advert for Western justice. Withholding pictures and videos from Osama’s death may fuel conspiracy theories, but will undoubtedly deny extremists a propaganda victory.

2. Get your story straight before telling anyone

Osama was armed and then he wasn’t. He used his wife as a human shield and then he didn’t. With a complete monopoly of information, there’s no excuse for having to change your story. It always looks incredibly suspicious.

3. News doesn’t break, it tweets

A poll for Mashable revealed that almost half of respondents found out about the death through Twitter or Facebook. This may say something about Mashable’s readership, but equally highlights the fact that traditional media are no longer the vanguard of breaking news.

4. Fox News never misses an opportunity

The similarity between the word ‘Obama’ and ‘Osama’ is one of those unfortunate coincidences that PR can do very little about. Openly critical of the American President, it was no surprise that a Fox station in California ‘accidentally’ broke the news with the headline ‘OBAMA BIN LADEN DEAD’. Wishful thinking perhaps.

5. News this big provides plenty of media opportunities

A royal wedding followed by the death of the world’s most infamous terrorist meant a slow couple of weeks for PR companies who couldn’t find a relevant angle for their clients. Thankfully, Faith Matters had some fantastic insight to add to the debate on the growth of extremism, with director Fiyaz Mughal appearing on BBC News and commenting in the Daily Star.

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